Several city officials had favorable reactions to the Regal family's proposal for the Sileno quarry site at a special joint meeting of the Plan Commission and Park and Recreation Commission on Monday. The meeting was solely to give feedback; no action was taken.
The Regal family's proposal includes building 89 to 112 luxury apartments on 10 acres of the property, and donating the remaining acres for a park, conservancy or both. The family already owns the Regal Crest Village Apartments adjacent to the site.
Mark Regal, a leader with Brookfield Residents Against the Dump, said in December he had an accepted offer to purchase the land at 13505 W. Burleigh Road on the condition that he could get a development agreement with the city.
Regal and the B.R.A.D. group have long opposed any dumping of fill at the site, as was previously proposed to level out the land for development of multifamily housing and a park. Alan Marcuvitz, legal representative for the Regals, said the intent remains to bring no fill into the site under the family's proposal.
"We've just been through a year of intense activity and the neighborhood made it very clear they were opposed to major long-term trucking," Marcuvitz said. "The promise is none. As long as the Regals are in the picture, and the people in this neighborhood are in the picture, there will never be any dumping on this property."
The apartments are proposed for 10 acres on the northern part of the property, which according to current zoning rules can only support 29 units, Community Development Director Dan Ertl said. In order to build 89 units, the Regals would either have to maintain ownership of an additional 20 acres or ask the city to rezone that part of the property.
Marcuvitz said the Regals' preference is to donate all but 10 acres of the land, and they would prefer to go through rezoning in order to be allowed more units.
Any land the city would not like to acquire, Marcuvitz said, would be donated to a nonprofit organization to manage in conservancy, "to keep it pristine and unspoiled by time or by activity." Under the Regals' proposal, this would include the entire surface area of the water on the property. Marcuvitz said the family has not had any discussions with potential organizations to manage the conservancy.
City officials didn't give a consensus on whether they would accept a donation of a park, but several commented in favor of acquiring 15 acres on the western side of the property, which they referred to as the "finger" because it juts out from the quarry and connects to Lilly Road. A trail easement could connect the park to an access point at 131st and Center streets.
Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Bill Kolstad said this "finger" was added to the property after the quarry operation, which makes it likely there was never dumping of fill on the site. For any area where there was dumping, the city would have to hold a referendum before acquiring the land.
Alderman Bill Carnell, who was in the audience, said he has heard from his constituents — he represents the district the quarry is in — that they would like to see the acres not going toward the apartments to be developed as little as possible.
"As one resident remarked, nature has reclaimed this land," Carnell said. "I believe the finger site off Lilly Road would be superior for a park site, but it should have minimal intervention."
Marcuvitz said he has spoken to officials with the state Department of Natural Resources who said they would support the city in acquiring the park, and have several grant options to help fund the park's development.
"If that can work out, the city could wind up with no cost at all," Marcuvitz said.
Mark Regal said his family has lived next to the quarry since 1960, and would like it preserved as much as possible as a "passive-use" city park.
"My family and many neighbors believe the quarry should remain in its current state," Regal said. "Trails and lookout vistas would increase the safety and security of the quarry without major disruption."
Despite many optimistic comments, city officials did express concerns about safety and liability at the property.
According to a staff report, between 2009 and 2013, Brookfield police responded to 173 incidents at the property, including two 911 calls, an ambulance call, three suspicious circumstances and 31 trespassing incidents. Staff members said they thought the trespassing likely will continue regardless of who owns the property, and safety hazards should be considered.
City Attorney Karen Flaherty said the city would need to conduct a study on the hazards that exist on the land before acquiring it, and would need to consider whether there are "obvious and known dangers."
Ertl noted that even on property not acquired by the city, it would be city police and responders who would be responsible for providing rescue and relief for any issues near the quarry, an area Fire Chief Charlie Myers said poses many challenges.
"The way I envision it, it is a tough terrain rescue in a heavily wooded environment equivalent to a wilderness rescue in a suburban application," Myers said. "Trying to deal with how to do a rescue from slopes, it's something we have concern for."
Marcuvitz said he would work closely with city staff after the meeting to refine the Regals' proposal, with an eye toward providing police and fire access.
Support from residents
One commissioner, Cathy Markey, addressed another concern she has heard — a perception that Mark Regal may have had a conflict of interest in forming the B.R.A.D. group.
Marcuvitz said: "Mr. Regal is not going to answer that question. I will tell you there is no conflict of interest here at all. B.R.A.D. supported development, they supported a neighborhood park. They opposed trucking. Mr. Regal does not have to defend himself to anyone."
The audience included several supporters of the Regal family.
Donald and Gerry Vogel, who live in Regal Crest apartments, said they have seen many plans for the adjacent quarry come and go. They hope to see some resolution.
"Whether this will resolve it remains to be seen," Donald said.
But, Gerry said, "We're delighted the Regals have taken over the property and are keeping it safe."
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